Facebook’s meteoric rise into existence and rapid evolution over just a few years has made understanding the platform’s subtle social intricacies a complex task for users. Yet, there exists a general consensus about the courtesy or etiquette to be observed in online communication, principles that can be applied to this exceptional social networking site. However, it’s important to recognize that spontaneous social interactions don’t adhere to fixed rules, as they are in a constant state of flux.
The etiquettes outlined below should not be seen as rigid laws that must be followed to the letter. Instead, I want to stress that they are merely suggestions designed to enrich our social interactions and experiences on Facebook. It’s essential to understand that social interactions do not lend themselves to a one-size-fits-all strategy. Therefore, I urge you to consider these guidelines thoughtfully, applying them as you find appropriate, and always with a touch of personal judgment!
1. DM Private Matters Instead of Posting On Feed
As much as you may have exhibitionistic tendencies and want everyone to know your most intimate secrets, others may not share the same inclination. Your friends might not take it too kindly when you post what they did last night at your house party, or any other details that are understood to be kept between your closest friends.
The fact is, most of their Facebook friends will hear about it on such a public platform. The walls indeed have ears, especially so for the Facebook Feed. It’s best to keep these conversations behind closed doors in Facebook Messenger.
2. Call Rather Than Post Personal News
This isn’t just Facebook etiquette; it’s social etiquette or even common sense. If you need to inform your friends or family about some important and personal news (e.g., a death in the family), don’t declare it in the public domain. Facebook is a social networking site, and it’s supposed to be public. This means that people can find out what happened.
Another reason not to post is courtesy. It’s the same reason why you shouldn’t text (or even the phone) to break up with someone. It’s rude and insincere to convey important news, whether good or bad, without having some form of genuine communication through voice tones and body language.
3. Be Mindful of What You Post
When you have hundreds of friends and acquaintances on Facebook, you have people from all kinds of backgrounds, with different jobs, beliefs, personalities, etc. Updating your status with a general statement may seem harmless to you, but others may read it in a different light.
For example, you might make a remark about how advertisers con unsuspecting consumers into buying something they don’t need.
What you may not realize is that some of your friends in the advertising industry could see your status in their newsfeed. It’s a general statement, but they might think you are targeting them. Of course, it’s not going to be any fun if you’re going to consider all the possible misinterpretations before you post anything, but it’s wise to be mindful of it.
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4. Reply to Comments Especially If They are Questions
You post a status, and your friends make comments and ‘like’ it. I guess the least you can do is acknowledge them by replying, especially when there are questions directed at you.
I’m not saying you should do it just for the sake of doing it, but add to their comments once in a while. If you ignore them all the time, chances are that they won’t bother with your status anymore, lest they look silly talking to a wall. It’s almost like karma.
5. Avoid Posting Comments on Every Post
If you’re stalking your friend, leave it at that. Don’t make a habit of commenting on everything your friends post, or they’ll start to get suspicious. Even if you say with all honesty that you are not stalking them, it’s not going to be easy for them to believe that their status updates always appear on your newsfeed.
It’s an open secret that everyone checks out their friends’ profiles every now and then, but to comment on everything is to admit that you are constantly checking up on them. What’s even worse is that your friend’s friends might notice as well, seeing that you are a ‘regular’ commenter. If you don’t wish to be labeled a pest, try to limit your comments somewhat.
Bonus: Be Careful with Your Tone
As with all other online communication, communicating on Facebook is mostly textual. We can neither hear the voice tone nor see the body language when the other person ‘speaks.’ In other words, it’s easy for someone to think you are being sarcastic when you are not, or to misunderstand you in some other way for that matter. To complicate things, everyone has their own typing style.
One way we can compensate for the lack of cues is to use emojis. It’s pretty limited, but experience has taught me that a simple smiley face after a sentence can do wonders in neutralizing any potential tension. Smile, and the whole world smiles with you :)
1. Make Friend Requests to Strangers
Some people have this idea that the number of ‘friends’ you have on Facebook is a status of your popularity in real life. That may be true if these ‘friends’ are people whom you know offline, and not strangers whom you randomly add while browsing through the Facebook network.
The idea becomes warped when people add friends merely for the sake of boosting their ‘popularity indicator’ among their peers. That’s not cool. However, if you wish to add someone for a valid reason, such as getting to know a girl you have a crush on, do so with an introduction or through a mutual friend. Skipping that step only leaves a bad impression, which is the last thing you want.
2. Tag Your Friends in ‘Unglam’ Shots
Guys may take it lightly when they are tagged in photos that look as if they’ve just woken up from bed, thinking it’s a joke pulled off by their friends. For women, though, appearing ‘unglam’ means a lot more. Of course, this applies to some men as well. What you need to take from this rule is to be sensitive about who you might be tagging in photos, especially those shots that are obviously poorly taken.
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3. Overshare Yourself
Checking out the updates on your newsfeed, you see the same friend updating his status over and over again. Not insightful ones, but just posts about what he’s doing every ten minutes. How exciting. You decide to hide his posts.
Sound familiar? Probably. It’s annoying because no one is really interested in their friends’ everyday mundane activities, yet they just keep popping up in their updates. Spice up your status updates a little. Instead of telling your friends you’re in the restroom taking a leak, share something interesting about yourself.
4. Vent About Your work
Facebook is a double-edged sword when it comes to its social networking capabilities. The boon is that it enables us to connect in an unprecedented manner with friends of friends of friends through the identification of mutual friendships. On the other hand, the bane is that there’s easily a way to gather information about you by passing through such layers one by one.
Even with your most stringent Facebook privacy settings, there’s still a risk that what you post can reach people you wouldn’t want it to reach, and your co-workers and boss are the last people you want to mess with. So, just play it safe and leave your venting for somewhere private.
5. Post Chain Status Updates
Remember those chain emails that demand you forward them to all of your friends or you’ll die a horrible, horrible death? Well, Facebook has a similar kind of chain, but usually for a good cause. Someone may post a status update about a social cause, encouraging those who read it to post the status too, so that their friends will get to read it and post it as well. This chain thus spreads the cause, raising public awareness.
The intention here is right, but sometimes too much of a good thing isn’t good. When you see your newsfeed updates filled with the same status, you get annoyed instead, and you may associate your negative emotion with that social cause.
Bonus: Flame Others
Everyone is entitled to state their own opinion on the free internet, so there’s no need to put anyone down just because you disagree (or worse, dislike the person). Sometimes I even see people criticizing the comments of a friend’s friend who replied to a post, even though they don’t know them. It’s embarrassing not only to yourself but to your friend as well.
In the spirit of good conversations, let’s keep this in mind in all our online communications, whether on Facebook, in forums, emails, etc. Don’t ruin it for everyone.
At the end of the day, it’s entirely up to us to follow these etiquette rules. I guess it’s about finding the balance between being fun and sensitive to everyone. On one hand, we shouldn’t restrict ourselves with rules and regulations that would limit the creativity and spontaneity of our social interactions.
On the other hand, we ought to be aware of the public nature of Facebook to protect our privacy, and at the same time, respect the fact that each one of us forms part of the Facebook experience for everyone else. Find the right balance, and you’ll not only improve that experience for yourself but also help others enjoy it as well!